Kau coffee

Hawaii Sustainable Agriculture Documentary

Hundreds of years ago, Hawaii’s natural resources from the land to the sea sustained a population of over one million ancient Hawaiians. An ancient system known as the ahu’pua’a provided resources for all by giving daily contribution tasks to everyone who lived in the communities. Centuries later, Hawaii’s natural resources no longer provide enough to sustain the vastly growing population of the islands; in fact, the islands only produce 10-15% of the foods consumed by the local population. Most consumable foods and goods are imported from the mainland United States as well as from international countries. As a result, most modern people do not spend any time physically cultivating their own food and may not even know where the food they eat even comes from.

Wow tomato farms Big Island Hawaii
Wow tomato farms Big Island Hawaii

In October 2013, two teachers and five students from Kapolei High School on Oahu spent five days on the Big Island of Hawaii to visit 13 local businesses promoting local farming and ranching. The goal was to produce a 20-minute multimedia documentary that explores how local farmers are helping Hawaii become an agriculturally sustainable state where more locally grown food is produced. During the five days on the Big Island, students and teachers enjoyed not only seeing where food was coming from but also experiencing it in local restaurants. We sampled pancakes and locally made coconut syrup, goat cheese salad, grass-fed all beef burgers, freshly caught island fish, Kona coffee, and fresh fruit salads.

Throughout the experience, it was that there are many challenges and roadblocks to agricultural sustainability in Hawaii, but there are also lots of people who rise to the challenge each day. Here are some of those people.

12 Sustainable Agricultural Programs in Hawaii

Sustainability Profile: Aikane Plantation Coffee Company

Kona coffee reigns supreme as Hawaii's most popular coffee. But (arguably) superior to Kona coffee is that which comes from the neighboring area of Ka'u. Valued for its smooth and delicate flavor and low acidity, Ka'u coffee is considered on the top coffees of the world and is even available as a Starbucks Reserve brew. One talented Hawaii coffee farm known for its Ka'u coffee is Aikane Coffee Plantation. You'll know their brand once you see their iconic purple packaging.

Located in the Ka'u region of Hawaii (bordering Kona), Aikane Coffee Plantation's first coffee trees were planted by owner Meryl Becker's great-grandfather in 1894 when he settled in the area to work in the sugar industry. In fact, many of the plantation’s current coffee trees are descendants of those first trees. Located far away from other coffee farms, there is little chance of cross-pollination. As a result, Aikane coffee remains a truly authentic old Hawaiian coffee.

Aikane Coffee Plantation Hawaii
Aikane Coffee Plantation Hawaii

By the Numbers

  • 1894 - Year when Aikane's first coffee tree was planted. 

  • 2 How many seeds are in one coffee berry. 

  • 8% Amount of coffee berries that have only 1 seed (peaberries). 

  • 70+ How many countries produce coffee. 

  • 15th Century - when coffee was first introduced. 

Aikame.jpg

The coffee cherries are handpicked, washed, and dried on site. They are roasted and packaged in eye-catching royal purple bags as whole beans or as ground coffee. A brewed cup of Aikane coffee is smooth and rich, lacking a strong acidic aftertaste. The coffee production process is truly green. No pesticides or chemicals are ever used, macadamia nut shells and coffee pulp are used as mulch, grazing sheep are used to keep the grass growth down, a catchment system catches rainwater, and electric solar panels supply all of the energy. The farm is also home to horses and donkeys and it is a visitation destination for tour groups. Aikane Plantation coffee is a premium product in the Japanese market, but it can be found in high-end restaurants in Hawaii as well as Shirokiya, Bishop Museum, Blue Hawaii Lifestyles, military commissaries, and select farmer’s markets.

*This is a multi-part installment as part of the Hawaii Sustainable Agriculture Project. Learn more about the project and the 12 participants here